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grumpyfish's avatar

Good interview questions for family members?

Asked by grumpyfish (6632points) August 24th, 2010

I’m starting a project to record casual interviews with my family members. I know a lot of what I want to ask (particularly things specific to the person I’m interviewing), but I’m looking for interesting things to ask about in a general sense.

The interviews are sort of intended as an audio version of old family photos.

So, Fluther, any good questions for family members? Ice breaker interview questions?

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13 Answers

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

What a wonderful project! There are a lot of questions I would ask my elders; the younger ones would be more of a challenge as we tend to know so much already.

* What is your earliest memory?
* Have you ever had a nickname? If so, what was it?
* What injuries have you had? What caused it and what was the result?
* Who was your first crush on?
* What’s one thing most people don’t know about you that you’d like to share?
* When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
* What was your first job? (or responsibility, if they are young)

Austinlad's avatar

Great questions above. Why don’t you also ask if there are questions they wished they’d asked their parents?

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Austinlad Great idea…and it can be applied to those whose parents are still living. It may provide additional questions to ask others. It may also get some to ask their living parents.

Seek's avatar

“What was the hardest decision you’ve ever had to make? Do you feel you made the right choice?”

^ Major question I’d like to ask my husband’s grandfather, who is a WWII veteran.

kevbo's avatar

I find that my sister and I often have differing memories of our times growing up and different perceptions of what transpired during fairly memorable events (not necessarily bad or good, often funny ones though). It will probably be fruitful to find memorable events in your family’s history and hear how each family member tells the story on their own. This could be cut together when all of the interviews are completed.

Same with personalities. People generally like hearing about what others think of them in terms of what qualities they possess. Hearing five testimonies to one’s great sense of humor or good cooking is highly gratifying for the person being discussed.

grumpyfish's avatar

@kevbo – woah, I had forgotten about memory working that way, that’s a brilliant scheme. I have memories of stories my dad told me that I thought were about him, but turned out to be ME when i was little. (e.g., i did something funny at 5, was told about it at 10 and somehow thought he was talking about himself).

muppetish's avatar

As a rule of thumb in journalism, avoid any yes or no questions. Instead of asking “Have you ever done anything stupid?” ask “What is the dumbest thing you have ever done?” and always be prepared to pose follow-up questions.

I like trying to sweep over a long period of time. Ask questions about childhood, their teenage years, and both their young adult and current life.

“What’s the best story you’ve never told anybody?” – I don’t know whether they would be able to come up with a response of the top of their head, but I have received fairly interesting responses to this question. Sometimes we never get the chance to share a random experience because nobody ever asks.

Seek's avatar

Heck, man, why aren’t we asking these things on here?

Off to post. ^_^ @muppetish, I’m stealing yours. Mua ha ha… OK, no I won’t, unless you give me permission.

kevbo's avatar

Thanks… another thing worth mentioning is to give the interviewee enough mental and aural space for their stories and impressions to surface. Don’t panic when the conversation pauses and try to fill it with more thoughts or questions. Trust that something interesting and compelling will bubble up on it’s own.

muppetish's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Feel free to riff off any questions I pose here ;) I’d love to read what others will post.

grumpyfish's avatar

@muppetish Mis-read your name as muppetfish and thought you were a relative! =)

@kevbo I’m an introvert, so completely OK with silence.

My plan, to start, is mostly to ask a very specific question (such as “Dumbest thing” or “First day of high school” type questions—I know I have several VERY different takes on the summer of ‘69 from the right age group) and then let that lead naturally into other topics by association.

Sort of like asking an artist “Paint me a picture” is impossible. “Paint me a picture with an elephant somewhere in it.” is easy. Starting with the specific, I can get them talking, and then other things will come up.

lynfromnm's avatar

What is the most significant change you have experienced in your lifetime? Do you feel it was a change for the better? Why or why not?

Who have been some of your personal heroes? Why?

Jeruba's avatar

What was life like in your family growing up?
Did you have dinner together as a family?
What do you remember about your parents?
What do you remember about MY parents?
How did you celebrate holidays?
What do you wish you could still do the way you did it then?
How was school a different experience in your youth?
Tell me about the summers when you were a youngster.
What did you used to do that wouldn’t be allowed now?
What do kids have now that you wish you could have had then?
How much money did you have to spend, and what could you get for it?
How have things changed in your town since you were a kid?

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